Pro-choice activists protest.

This Date in UCSF History: Anti-abortionists Threaten Family Planning Funds

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

[Originally published on November 7, 1985.]

Local family planning agencies and prochoice groups are concerned about a move by congressional conservatives to prohibit federal family planning funds to any organization which offers abortion counseling.

A rider to the family planning appropriations bill which would enact the ban was authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Jack Kemp, R-N.Y. Hatch chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Labor and Human Resources, which is considering reappropriation of the family planning funds — which totaled $142 million last year.

“I believe abortion counseling is an integral part of family planning,” said Alice Wolfson, a spokesperson for the Committee to Defend Reproductive Rights (CDRR), a San Francisco-based pro-choice group.

But under the proposed ban, she added, medical personnel and social workers at family planning agencies would not be able to refer to abortion as a legitimate option.

“Our lips are sealed is what they would have to tell the client,” she said.

Wolfson’s comments were echoed by San Francisco-Alameda Planned Parenthood, an agency that would suffer funding cuts if the proposed ban is enacted. Last year the local Planned Parenthood received six percent of its budget, or about $180,000, from the federal government.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood got about $30 million. An agency spokesperson said since federal family planning aid is earmarked for low income and teen-age women, they would most seriously be affected by an abortion counseling prohibition.

Funding for this year runs out Nov. 15. The deadline may pass, given heated wrangling of over the Hatch-Kemp bill. Hatch aide Nancy Taylor said the bill is an attempt to clarify the original purpose of the 1970 law which created family planning funds.

That purpose, she told Synapse, was for family planning, not abortion.

“Sen. Hatch supports family planning,” she said, “and does not see abortion as a method of family planning.”

The law originally prohibited use of family planning funds for abortion, according to Hatch. But guidelines later developed by the Department of Health and Human Services specifically allowed abortion counseling.

Opponents of the Hatch-Kemp legislation argue that banning the discussion of abortion as an option would amount to unethical practice, because it would deny clients a medical option.

Taylor disagrees. She said such arguments are suspect because they are politically motivated by those who want to use family planning to shield the use of abortion. In published interviews, Kemp has made similar comments.

His bill, he has said, is designed “to place a wall” between family planning and abortion.”

Analysis The Hatch-Kemp rider is the latest in a series of battles between pro- and antiabortion forces. One of the main battlefields has been and continues to be California. Gov. Deukmejian has made no secret of his opposition to abortion.

According to CDRR, he has drastically cut state support of family planning and removed many prochoice personnel from the Office of Family Planning and its advisory committee. One new committee member is Royal D. Blue, Calif, head of the Moral Majority, known for its strident anti-abortion stance.

In June Deukmejian signed controversial state budget language designed to prevent family planning agencies which receive state funds from advocating abortion. The legality of this language was challenged by Planned Parenthood — including the San Francisco Alameda affiliate.

The First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled in agreement with the agency Nov. 1. The court said the budget language violated the state constitution. 

Pro-choice activists feel they may have to take to the streets — like they did in this 1982 demonstration in San Francisco — to counter anti-abortion moves in Congress and Sacramento.